Monday, April 4, 2016

Recent Thoughts on Baptism

I've been fascinated with baptism since my son came into the world and now with #2 on the way, preparing for the next baptism is on the agenda soon after the birth. The thing about baptism in Catholic theology though, is that you can have it lead to so many different avenues. Is baptism salvific? Who can partake in baptism? Are we regenerated by baptism? What is original sin? What is original justice? How does baptism add in with our justification? And the questions go on and on.

There's a crazy long debate going on at this article over on Catholic Answers, and I've learned so much from reading not only the original article, but the comments as well. I've learned how strong the Catholic (and Orthodox) case is for the sacramental view of baptism, and comparably, how ridiculous many Fundamentalist Protestants are with their weak arguments and how they have to twist and contort pretty explicit Scripture passages, just so the Scriptures can fit their faulty theology that never existed before 1500 A.D.

St Augustine Baptizes the Cathechumens- Girolamo Genga

So as I'm looking at all this, there was another short piece posted by Dave Armstrong that caught my eye, and helped me to articulate something I've been thinking about for quite a while. So in this conversation that Mr. Armstrong was having with a Protestant about baptism, the Protestant "brought up the classic Protestant 'gospel' verse of John 3:16 and said that it was odd that baptism wasn’t mentioned in it, if indeed it were so crucial to salvation. I countered that with Mark 16:16 ".

Whenever I hear stuff like this it confuses me. Mark 16:16 is a great proof that we are not saved by ONLY believing in Christ. Now, if I'm approached with the notion that what is contained in John 3:16 is all we need to be saved, I often think to myself, "There's a bunch of other passages in the Bible where we're told we're saved by other things, like eating Christ's Body and Blood, or by keeping the Commandments." I found one Catholic blogger that gave all these Scripture passages professing how we're saved:

"In fact, our Catholic faith takes the Word of God in its entirety to declare how we are saved. We do not take one event, one verse, one incident, and glean from that a theology of salvation.
Here's how Catholics profess we are saved...
By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31
By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)
By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)
By eating his flesh and drinking his blood (Jn 6)
By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)
By declaring with our mouths (Lk 12:8; Rom 10:9)
By coming to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)
By works (Rom 2:6-7; James 2:24)
By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)
By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)
By his righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)
By keeping the commandments (Matt 19:17)
By our words (Matt 12:37)"

I mean, just look at all these different things! This is where my point I was talking about at the beginning comes in...

The Baptism of the Eunuch- Jan van der Elburcht
So in my thinking, saying we're only saved by solely our belief in Christ is like saying, "we (as humans) are exuding a healthy lifestyle if we drink 8 glasses of water a day and exercise in the morning." This is a true statement, but if we're also eating 3 double bacon cheeseburgers EVERY day, then all that exercise and drinking of water will be for naught. Someone can tell you your living healthy in one way, without explaining the totality of healthfulness.  I just don't understand why or how John 3:16 can be seen as the end all; be all. I mean, what it says is absolutely true, and it's a hallmark of our faith. But I don't see anyone going around saying "hey we're gonna be justified by our words... because that's what Jesus said in Matthew 12." Yea, and... what else did Christ and the other New Testament writers say that we need to DO? I believe that this line of reasoning works with how we're saved by baptism, among other things besides a profession of faith in Christ.

I'm really starting to see first-hand more and more in the past several months how many non-Catholic Christians just read their own theology and preconceived notions into the Scriptures. I guess when one takes such a legalistic and literal view only of Scripture, you get the abounding heresies and outright falsehoods we see perpetuated in many Protestant churches, especially among the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. I can only pray that one day people will stop sticking their heads in the sand, and like the eunuch in Acts, realize that we need someone to interpret the Scriptures for us. Thank God for the Magisterium of His holy Catholic Church.

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